Catholic University law school Professor Leah Wortham (at podium, above) was a key presenter for “Different Aspects of Electoral Systems and Their Impact in the Consolidation of Democracy,” an Oct. 27 program sponsored by and held at the law school of the University of Tirana, Albania, in collaboration with the Columbus School of Law.
The conference was convened to assist Albanian academics and legal professionals in their efforts to upgrade the discussion and analysis of legal and social issues present in that nation’s current electoral system.
Wortham’s presentation, ”Making Peace in The Voting Wars: Voter Participation and Election Administration in U.S. Elections,” was in part a historical tour of the past 50 years of American voting patterns, developments, and controversies.
She began her talk with a statement made by President Lyndon Johnson upon his signing of The Voting Rights Act of 1965, "The right to vote is the most basic right, without which all others are meaningless."
In America, she noted, the right to vote, and whose vote is counted, has been a continuing struggle. Professor Wortham discussed the bitterness in the United States over the drawn- out settlement of Bush v. Gore in 2000, and spent a portion of her remarks on the more current battles in 2012 over the attempt in some states to impose new voter ID laws.
Wortham also covered how America’s electoral college system works.
She acknowledged to her Albanian colleagues that America’s rough-and-tumble - sometimes even chaotic - system of politics and elections may seem surprising to the rest of the world coming from such a long-established democracy.
But Albania and other democracies can take heart that warts and all, citizen voting is still the best way to guarantee a free society.
“You are talking about critical issues in institutionalizing and maintaining democracy. If they were easy in a democracy, they would have been solved,” Wortham said. “It is efforts from smart, educated, concerned people like you that will keep these difficult battles in peaceful, public, albeit painful, channels rather than fought at the end of a gun.”